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Sterling strikers want security as downturn looms: CAW
ST. THOMAS, Ont. -- Before a strike by 2,000 CAW workers shut it down last Friday, Sterling Trucks' St. Thomas, Ont. plant was producing more trucks than ever. And in order to lure employees back to the job, the truckmaker is going to have to ensure assembly lines will keep rolling at similar rates for the foreseeable future. That's what CAW Local 1001 told local media this weekend as union officials met in London, Ont. to discuss their next move. There are no talks scheduled between union leaders and management until Wednesday, but Richard Laverty, chairperson of the CAW bargaining committee, says his members' resolve is strong.

Sterling's St. Thomas workers want in it writing
that production won't shift to Mexico in' 07
The workers went of strike at Midnight last Friday morning after talks broke down with the company. The workers want higher wages, more time off, better pension and benefits -- similar demands that were made when they went on a two-week strike back in 2003. At that time, the Southern Ontario plant was producing 78 units per day. Today it makes 114 units daily. The plant closes at a time when OEMs are operating at near capacity to meet the strong pre-buy demand from large carriers trying to avoid buying heavily-regulated, EPA-mandated engines in 2007 new truck models. In the first month of 2006, U.S.-Canada sales for class 8 trucks reached 21,670 units—almost a 6 percent jump from Jan. '05—setting the pace for what may end up being a record-breaking sales year. However, while North American sales are expected to reach 350,000 units this year, the number for 2007 is predicted to fall back down to about 230,000 total sales. That economic downturn has the union worried Sterling may scale back production of one or both of the models it produces in St. Thomas -- the Sterling HX heavy-duty truck and the Acterra medium-duty model. Union officials therefore want Sterling's parent company Freightliner LLC to commit to future production of those trucks in St. Thomas and not shift assembly to other facilities in the U.S. or Mexico during the expected 2007 downturn. Laverty told the St. Thomas Times Journal that such a guarantee is "a very key piece to a settlement.” The Acterra is produced exclusively in St. Thomas, but that could change, Laverty told the newspaper. He suggested that the company is considering switching production of that model to North Carolina or Mexico. -- with files from the St. Thomas Times Journal
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